Amylose: Structure, Formula & Function

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Danielle Reid

Danielle has taught middle school science and has a doctorate degree in Environmental Health

Have you ever thought about amylose when eating a potato or munching on cereal? Well, then you're doing this important molecule a disservice. In this lesson, learn more about the amylose in our food, including its structure, formula, and function.

What is Amylose?

Right now, you've probably got some amylose in your kitchen cupboard, like in that box of cornstarch. As you probably already know, cornstarch is a widely used product that thickens foods. But, did you know that amylose in cornstarch contributes to its thickening property? So what is this secret ingredient? Well, amylose is a linear polymer chain that contains hundreds to thousands of glucose molecules. A polymer is a large molecule that contains many subunits.

Let's take a look at that box of cornstarch. As a starch, 20-25% of its content comes from amylose. But what about the other 75-80% of its makeup? Here, we'll find a different compound called amylopectin, which we'll discuss later on in this lesson. Amylose is water soluble, which contributes to the gelatinous property of starch. In other words, because amylose loves to mingle with water, it can help turn a substance, such as cornstarch, into a thickener.

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  • 0:01 What is Amylose?
  • 1:01 Structure
  • 2:09 Types
  • 2:33 Function
  • 3:19 Lesson Summary
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If you're wondering what amylose looks like, take a look at the two diagrams here.

Check out all those oxygen atoms, carbon atoms, and CH2OH molecules. Collectively, one subunit of amylose is called a glucose molecule, as shown in the illustration. Each glucose or sugar molecule links to another by way of a glycosidic bond, which is a type of covalent bond. Covalent bonds form when molecules share electrons.

Glycosidic bonds are important because they link several hundred, or even thousand, glucose molecules to form an amylose chain. For example, the coiled amylose chain in the diagram contains more than 500 glucose molecules!

Earlier we identified amylose as a polymer. We also found out that a polymer is a gigantic molecule with many subunits. Keeping what we learned at the beginning of the lesson in mind, why would amylose be a polymer? Well, amylose qualifies as a polymer because it is a gigantic molecule formed from several sugar subunits, called glucose, linked together via glycosidic bonds.

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